At Q2Q, one of our favorite team discussions is around productivity. In a fast-paced, customer-service-led environment like ours, it can be difficult to plan your day as it is, never mind with the added complexity of never really knowing what will hit the helpdesk. And that’s before you even begin to account for the usual workplace distractions.

There is no regularity to IT issues – no peak hours or days – and the only time of the year we can guarantee will be quiet is over Christmas. Unsurprisingly then, we often use this time to get ahead on forthcoming projects, as well as to the preventative work which runs in the background.

In a recent team development session, the Q2Q family reflected on the causes of distraction in the office – everything from the phone ringing to the all-important brew run – and how each occurrence affected our productivity, what the main issues were, and how we could tackle them.

The session began with a fun diagram of Damien Gelder’s brain, which seems to be thinking about at least half a dozen subjects at any given time! Our technical consultant apportioned what he thought were all his daily distractions, and gave them a percentage. Interestingly, the total came to 110%, so we’re not quite sure what that says about his brain, but the results were as follows:

  • 30% – verbal distractions by colleagues (asking for assistance or information)
  • 25% – needing to take a break from the screen / task in hand in order to refocus
  • 10% – knowing something needs to be done but being unable to remember what it is!
  • 5% – a vague niggle that he needs to be doing something else of a higher priority
  • 40% – digital notifications, mainly emails.

In response, we explored the various tips and tricks we each employ in order to minimise distractions, and the five below were the ones that came out on top:

Don a pair of noise-cancelling headphones when working on complex projects

Not only does it let the rest of the team know that you’ve got your head in a project, but it will help to determine which type of music helps you focus – versus what’s a distraction and makes you want to sing along.

Make use of a lightbulb desk lamps

Everyone has a lightbulb lamp on their desk which, when switched on, say to the rest of the team: “I am really busy, so please leave me alone unless it’s urgent.”

Ticket-smashing hour

Having a sea of tickets waiting for the helpdesk can be distracting – with each one nagging to be fixed. Now, we spend 60 minutes each day identifying and actioning any of the quick and easy-to-solve problems, and work our way through them – accompanied by some great music – to clear any unnecessary backlog.

Have a break…

It sounds simple enough, but we ensure that every single member of the team has a lunch break. Whether eating at the desk and surfing the net, or going out for a walk around Lancaster, it’s compulsory to clear your head and re-energise. The team sticks to this rule every day without fail – even if it’s just a 10-minute stroll around the block – because we find it easier to focus in the afternoon.

Turn off your emails

While this might sound like an impossibility in a service-led business, we appreciate that notifications can be a distraction – even if you only glance at the preview pop-up. As such, the team has a rota of when they need to monitor the helpdesk, so that at least each person has a rest from incoming alerts at some point in the day!

As a business owner, I really believe that it also helps to have a quiet day away from the office where I can dedicate my time to developing marketing material, catching up on the finances, or working on the future strategy for Q2Q.

Whatever work-related tasks I get involved in, these occasional days working from home prove to be invaluable – and incredibly productive. I turn off all tech distractions and leave my phone in another room, if I can bear to be parted from it!

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    Technical IT Support illustration at Q2Q HQ Lancaster, Lancashire and the North West